Chapter 3:

An eye for Trouble

Trouble In Paradise

The problem with running into trouble, is that you can’t exactly change your mind once you’ve begun moving your legs.

With each additional step I feel increasingly nauseous and fearful. Ahead of me Barnett writhes on the ground, as COOKIES operatives take it in turns to ruthlessly kick him and prod stun guns into his hairy underbelly.

Just past him Yui lies completely incapacitated, with blood trickling from her forehead. Her battered hoverboard lies metres away, its neon purple glow flickering in the half light, lights fading as the damage takes its toll.

I notice the enemy has moved to surround her, If I don’t reach her soon, I’ll have no hope of saving her. The problem, however, is that I’m short on time. If I choose to help Yui, it might cost Barnett greatly.

If I can’t find a way to save both of them right now, one will likely die.

I hear footsteps behind and bring my charge to a halt. I look backwards and to my relief Minerva is following closely behind me.

“Wait a minute” she begins, finally catching up, “You do know that you’re running the wrong way, right?”

Hunching over beside me, she places her hands on her knees and gasps for air. To my surprise she looks even worse for wear than Barnett and Yui, her cheeks flushed, hair messy, and clothes dishevelled.

She notices me staring at her bedraggled appearance.

“I-don’t-do-well-with-exercise” she explains in between heavy breaths, “I- may- or- may- not- have- fallen- over- at- some- point. Please- stop- running, we- need- a- plan.”

“We need to get over there and help them!” I cry, heart thumping, the urgency of the situation starting to set in.

Seemingly recovered from her previous breathlessness, Minerva stands up straight, brushing down her clothes and flipping her hair out of her face.

“We need to head over to Yui” she states confidently, “We can save her, grab the hoverboard, and fly over to rescue Barnett.”

“That won’t work” I insist, “We don’t have enough time to save them both, plus all three of us can’t fit on that hoverboard together.”

Minerva places her hand on her chin as if deep in thought.

“Okay, so if going to the enemy isn’t a valid option, we need to make them come to us.”

We both pause, processing her previous statement. Her eyes are glued to the floor, and I realise that my own stare has trailed off as well. We both know we need a distraction, yet we can’t bring ourselves to ask the other person to be bait.

Who am I kidding? What kind of person would ask someone else to run into certain death for their own benefit. I made my peace with death back at the DERT anyway, everything after that is just a luxury I suppose.

The problem is even if I sacrifice myself as bait to help Minerva and the others, the chance of them surviving is low. I need to do everything in my power to save them, whatever it takes.

“I’ll do it, I’ll be the distraction.” I declare, Minerva’s worried expression appearing alleviated by my words.

“I presume you have some sort of ability, right?” I continue, “like a cybernetic enhancement?”

She eagerly nods, before grabbing her hair and yanking it cleanly off. Turning around to reveal the back of her bare scalp, a pair of silver eyelids suddenly open, exposing steely grey eyes beneath.

“These eyes in the back of my head give me 360-degree vision, a field of view like that allows me to see potential threats before they even become dangerous. That’s why the others call me foresight, they say I respond so quick it’s as if I can see into the future.”

“Okay, this may sound counter intuitive, but I need you to not use your enhancement, because of my own.”

I bring my hands to my face, my fingers tenderly grasping my robotic eyeball and removing it from its socket. Resting in my palm, its crimson sheen reflects my grave features.

The look of a man with nothing left to lose, a look I swore I would never wear again.

“The problem with my enhancement, is that its uncontrollable, and dangerous.”

I spin Minerva back around, and firmly grab her shoulder, my sudden urgency and solemn attitude surprising her.

“Whilst they’re all focused on me, grab Yui and Barnett, and get as far away from here as possible.”

I step even closer towards her. Our faces are barely apart, my singular eye staring deep into her soul.

“Whatever you do, do not use your enhancement at any point! Do you understand?”

I release her from my grip, my ferocious intensity has stunned her into silence. All she can do in response is slowly nod in agreement.

“I-I’m sorry” I stammer, “Just promise me you’ll be safe. I need all three of you to be okay.”

“It’s okay, I’ll get all three of us out, I promise.” She responds with a shaky smile.

I am unsure if she believes her own words, or if she’s just lying to me and herself. Either way I’m grateful for the reassurance, superficial or not.

There is no time left to waste, I must act now.

I crouch down, picking up a piece of broken glass next to my feet. Giving Minerva one last nod, I take a deep breath before charging into the fray.

Whilst I run, I use the jagged edge of the glass to slice deep into my palm. Tightly gripping my cybernetic eye, I start painfully lodging it into my bleeding wound.

As the bloody optic pushes deeper beneath my skin, I cannot help crying out in anguish. My hands, now slippery with blood, drop the glass shard. As I peer behind me, watching it clatter off the ground, I see my companion is right on my heels.

A few COOKIES operatives notice our presence as we draw nearer, raising their weapons and stalking towards us in a tight formation.

Under my breath I begin to mutter the activation phrase, passed down to me from Shigeo and Tomiko Aito, the last words I ever heard my parents say.

The hand that strikes with chaos blind eye, drown in tears only trouble may cry.”

My eyes start to water as the cybernetic eye grows hot and begins to glow a deep red. The heat becomes intense to the point that my hand feels like its engulfed in flames. The red light is so bright its almost blinding, I have to avert my gaze for protection.

Then a singular tear falls from my face, caught in the palm of my hand.

The palm with the red, robotic eye.

The searing heat turns icy cold, the light shuts off, allowing nights darkness to creep back into the sky once more. For a moment everything is silent, it’s almost peaceful.

However I know the truth, these people will never know peace again.

The silence is shattered by the screams of the enemy. The COOKIES operatives fall to the ground, clutching their heads and squirming in pain. Some begin to seizure and foam at the mouth, with sparks flying from their smouldering steel.

I can only watch as their cybernetic upgrades turn rogue, becoming hostile as their own bodies reject them. Years of dependence on prosperous technology destroying them in a cruel twist of fate.

Glancing over to Minerva I can see that my plan worked, Yui and Barnett lie unconscious at her feet, unaffected by the suffering.

She stares at me with a look of horror on her face, the colour drained from her cheeks.

“My other eyes, I kept them closed” her voice is a fragile whisper “I can feel them though, they’re burning.”

I cannot bear to face her, I’m too ashamed of what I’ve done.

“Keep them closed, since you didn’t use them, the damage shouldn’t be permanent.” My voice also a whisper, lost in the surrounding sea of painful cries.

“What did you do to them, Dante?” she asks, almost pleading for an answer.

“This eye somehow has the ability to corrupt data, rendering all cybernetic upgrades useless. The body views them as foreign objects and attacks the host, this is the result.” I gesture to the individuals howling at my feet.

“People like yourself who have minimal upgrades can function without them, those who have traded away most of their humanity- “

“Can’t survive when the technology is removed.” Interjects Minerva, looking deep in thought once more.

“Do you know what this means?” she questions, striding towards me in earnest, “As far as I’m aware, this is the only weapon on the planet capable of fighting back against COOKIES tyrannical reign.”

“At what cost!” I spit back at her, my anger and upset clearly visible, “Who am I to decide the fate of these people like a god? If I do that, I’m no better than them!”

She swiftly moves her arm as if to strike me, however her hand stops before reaching my face, instead coming to rest gently on my shoulder.

“You are better than them. You have to be.”

As I stand there, stunned by her response, she lifts up the still unconscious Barnett and thrusts his body into my arms.

“You take him, Ill grab Yui. Let’s head to the rendezvous point. Once these guys have woken up, we’ll plan our next move.”

We begin walking away from mess we’ve left behind. As we get farther away the screams fade and dull, until they’re no longer audible.

Yet in my mind I still hear them.

“Minerva, I’m begging you, please don’t tell the others what I did. What I am.”

“I’m sorry, you know I can’t possibly do that. You’re not just involved, you’re important now.” She coldly states.

Her face shows no remorse, no sympathy for the people whose lives I have just destroyed with a few simple words.

“We will tear down those who came before us, building a world of change from the wreckage of our past.”

I stop walking.

Despite Barnett being heavy in my arms, the world weighs far greater in comparison.

I made the choice to run towards trouble, too busy running from myself to realise the danger into which I was heading. Now it’s a part of who I am, a part that isn’t done with me yet.

I get the feeling, Its only just getting started.